Western Union Gets A Patent On An Exchange For 'Alternative Currencies'
from the because-moneychanging-is-a-new-concept? dept
There are many different types of alternative currencies (herein also “alternative forms of value” or simply “alternative value”), each currency representing what the community holds valuable (e.g. time, labor/skill, goods/services, etc.). Alternative currencies currently in use include: “LindenDollars”—Second Life; Amazon.com's “Quest Gold”; World of Warcraft's (WoW) virtual “Gold”; Ithaca Hours (Ithaca, N.Y.); Carbon credits; regional currencies in Germany; “Dotz” (Brazil); Tradebank “Credits” (Construction-centric barter network); “Lassobucks” (Time/Skillset currency); Maha Vitaran—Indian power utility barters with other utilities for power; “Bartercard”—Loaded with goods & services (not cash), used in exchange for other goods & services. Many others are planned or currently in development.But here's the problem: exchanging currencies is not a particularly new idea. In fact, it's a very, very old idea. If you read the actual claims of the patent, they're basically describing the same abstract idea of any currency exchange platform -- having people offer to exchange currency, determining the values of the different currencies, and determining at what "price" to do the exchange.
It's unclear exactly what Western Union will do with the patent -- the company itself has mocked Bitcoin -- but it does remind us that there's likely to be a growing number of patent battles in the Bitcoin space before too long. eBay has also received some attention for seeking a patent on a Bitcoin currency exchanger -- but that's still an application that has yet to be approved. Still, there are a lot of others rushing in to patent aspects of Bitcoin, and I imagine it's only a matter of time until some entity, having nothing to do with Bitcoin, seeks to claim key aspects of Bitcoin as its "intellectual property."